Yesterday I ordered my HD-DVD player, thanks to a link on the main page of AICN. For myself – it was singularly deciding to purchase the BLADE RUNNER 5 DVD set. I know I don’t want to buy it twice, especially not in standard definition, so I had to commit. I chose HD-DVD. Here’s why: For those who are more casually observing the HD-DVD versus BLU-RAY war, know that this is a clash of the titans. Microsoft versus Sony…. Again. First it was video games with Microsoft’s Xbox versus Sony’s Playstation 2, now the latest incarnations of the same gaming systems are casting a net over the high definition video market. The Xbox 360 can play Microsoft’s HD-DVD’s and the Playstation 3 can play BLU-RAY DVD’s.

In the early 1980’s JVC went toe to toe with Sony for the coveted (and then brand new) home video cassette market. There had never been a home video market before that time. Sony had a proprietary format called Betamax or “beta” for short and JVC had the slightly inferior VHS cassette. It looked bleak for a time as many households had one of these or sometimes invested in one of each. Sony held off on licensing their format to any 3rd party manufacturers. JVC did not. Soon the price of VHS VCR’s dropped in very high percentages. JVC won the war and Sony dropped the Betamax cassette within a few short years.

Did Sony learn their lesson? Sort of. They are licensing the BLU-RAY manufacturing to other companies (like Toshiba) but they are charging way too much, so no one can make a cheap BLU-RAY player. Microsoft, not wanting to lose they way they did with Xbox versus Playstation 2, lowered their prices and made a very public claim that this Christmas, HD-DVD players would be under $200…. And 3 weeks ago an older model Toshiba HD-DVD player even sold for under $100 at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Circuit City.

Many industry insiders felt that with the Sony Playstation 3 being the clear video game winner (over Microsoft’s Xbox NOT the Nintendo Wii), that would make Blu-Ray the winner in the race for High Definition movies. In the war for consumer dollars, the inclusion/exclusion of PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360’s in the statistics, along with disc counts are all ploys and very hard to figure what is or is not really the status of whose winning. Everyday a new report comes out claiming that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD is outselling the other.

Right now, the consumer is in the losing end of the format war. Sony owns several movie studios at this point (Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures Classics, Columbus, Tri-Star, MGM, United Artists, etc.) which means they are putting all of their titles, new & old exclusively on their own format without offering them on HD-DVD. They made deals to get exclusive BLU-RAY for the home video giant – Disney and Pixar Animation. In the 1990’s Disney home videos on VHS were considered the new “American Babysitter”, an autopilot for holding children’s attention for stretches of time to allow parents to have a break. Each edition and re-issue of a Disney title could be accompanied with a “ka-ching” sound of Michael Eisner’s pocket. Bagging this library of movies on the Blu-Ray HD market would have almost single handedly ended the war with Sony as the clear winner. They already had 20th Century Fox on their side.

Until Microsoft bagged two elephants. They got Paramount and DreamWorks’ entire library to go exclusive with HD-DVD where Universal had gone exclusive before them. This leveled the playing field. Warner Brothers have not committed to one format yet, but they are much like us consumers – waiting out to see who wins before making a commitment. Warner Brothers released the Stanley Kubrick movies in both formats recently, as a compromise, but manufacturing 2 simultaneous formats will be expensive. It’s really really really expensive for a consumer to buy 2 different players – especially when the BLU-RAY players are so pricey.

Money talks. The “sale” price for BLU RAY at $399 spoke the loudest to me and I’m sure the majority of consumers. Sony screwed up once again with their greed, although Microsoft is just as greedy, they are smarter about it and most importantly – have the deep deep pockets to take heavy losses now so they can reap the reward$ later.

The 11 free HD-DVD’s total will ease my passing into the HD realm (especially since 3 of them will by Stanley Kubrick high definition discs). I’ve had a 30″ LCD for 2 years, but this is my first step into the BLU RAY/HD-DVD fray.

In my opinion, the price this Xmas will end the High definition debate. Microsoft wins. HD-DVD will quickly surpass Blu-Ray from now till December. Consumers would rather save $200 now than get 7-9 gigs more quality later.

Categories: blog

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


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